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Hog waste goes to good use

Source: Chesapeake Bay Program

Today’s conversation might stink, but it’s worth a read.

An Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialist talks about manure being an “ancient fertilizer in a precision age.” He shares the benefits of natural fertilizer applications, and presents recent research findings.

AUDIO: Dr. Dan Andersen, Iowa State University Extension

Dr. Dan Andersen, Iowa State University Extension and Outreach specialist, talked to swine producers about the benefits of manure at the 2018 World Pork Expo.

Anderson started his presentation by saying, “fertilizer is important for maintaining crop yields in Iowa.” He adds manure is a low-cost, value-added product and can play a big part in protecting our water resources.

“I think manure is a great fertilizer source,” Andersen said. “On the commercial side, we think about enhancements to make it a slow release fertilizer. When you look at manure, we naturally have some of that. Certainly some of the manure is in the ammonium form, but some of it is organic nitrogen, or slow release nitrogen. That’s an advantage right there.”

“On the water quality side – Our data shows that if you’re managing it with the best production and management practices, your losses will be similar, even a little bit reduced, compared to commercial fertilizer,” Andersen said. “It’s really good – for water quality – to think about using these nutrients and recycling them in our production systems.”

Dr. Andersen shares how producers can get the most out of their manure applications. He encourages producers to take nutrient availability and application timing into consideration before applying manure this fall.

“When you think about manure, it’s a complete fertilizer,” Andersen said. “But (it’s) not always a balance fertilizer, so we need to make sure we’re getting to fields where we can use that phosphorus, potassium and micronutrients that are trying to build soil health and focus on timing, if we’re trying to get nitrogen value, so that nitrogen will be available for the next crop.”

Iowa State University (ISU) research indicates farmers can gain 10 to 25 bushels per acre (bpu) when applying nitrogen at 50 degrees, on or around November 1st. Andersen says farmers can also receive more from nitrogen applications by implementing cover crops.

“Especially if you’re early (applying) manure – when we’re more prone to some nitrogen loss – our research data shows that cover crops can be really effective at reducing the nitrogen loss. Oftentimes, we’ve seen about a 35- to 40-percent reduction in nitrogen loss,” Andersen said. “One of the things we’ve struggled with is yield hits with cover crops. But I think management strategies, like making sure we’re getting timely killing of cover crop in the spring, as well as some pre-plant nitrogen enhancement or fertilizer to make up for some for the nitrogen immobilization, and the cover crop can really mitigate that.”

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